Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Directing Attention - Bono's PMI - Azara Feroz Sayed

As Bono says, outside highly technical matters, perception is the most important part of thinking. Perception is how we look at the world. What things we take into account. How we structure the world. Almost all errors of Thinking are perception errors and logical errors are rare. Yet we persist in believing that thinking ia all about avoiding logical errors. Perception works as a self organizing information system. This system allows the sequence in which information arrives to setup patterns. Our thinking then remains trapped in these patterns. We need some ways of broadening perception(exploring) and of changing perception(creativity). The biggest flaw in traditional thinking is to back up an opinion that has already been formed (by first impression, slight thinking, prejudice or tradition).

PMI (Plus - Minus - Interesting) is a 'attention directing' thinking tool by Edward De Bono used for deliberately directing attention in one direction after another without being trapped in the patterns or prejudices laid down by experience - perception. PMI is done in a very deliberate and disciplined manner of exploration over a period of 3 minutes or so. This is one of the first tool introduced to students in Bono's thinking courses.

The 'will' to look in one direction after another - when our prejudice has already decided what and how we should feel about an idea - is the key to this thinking tool. Once this is achieved, the natural challenge to intelligence is to find as many Plus(good points) or Minus(bad points) or I(Interesting - neither positive or negative) points. So there is a switch. Instead of intelligence being used to support a particular prejudice - it is used to explore the subject matter. It is also referred to as 'spectacle method' as it performs the function of spectacles in allowing us to see more clearly and more broadly.

A class was told 'what they thought about the idea of receiving $5 just for going to school every week'. Everyone agreed and they talked about the thinks that they would do with the extra money. The class was then introduced to PMI - first directing attention to the Plus points in the idea then towards the Minus points and finally towards the Intereting points. At this point several points came up
* The bigger boys would beat them up and take the money
* The school would raise its meal charges
* There would be quarrels about the money and strikes
* There would be less money to pay teachers
* Where would the money come from
and so on....
the class was asked at the end of the exercise the class was again asked if they liked the idea. 29 out the thirty now reversed their view and disliked the idea. A very simple scanning tool used by the youngsters themselves had brought the change. An expert is not needed to exercise this tool.

A PMI for 'all cars should be painted yellow'
* easier to see on the roads
* easier to see at night
* no problem in deciding which colour you wanted
* no waiting to get the color you wanted
* easier for the manufacturer
* the dealer would need less stock
* it might take the 'macho' element out of car ownersip
* cars would tend to become just transport items
* in minor collisions the paint rubbed off on to your car is the sam

* boring
* difficult to recognize your car
* very difficult to find your car in parking lot
* easier to steal cars
* the abundance of yellow light might tire the eyes
* car chases would be difficult for the police
* accident witnesses would have a harder time
* restriction to your freedom to choose
* some paint companies would go out of business

* interesting to see if different shades of yellow rose
* interesting to see if people appreciated the safety factor
* interesting to see if attitude towards car ownership changed
* interesting to see if this were enforcable
* interesting to see who would support the suggestion

The emotions, feelings, judgements are put on hold during the exploration process to avoid any blocking of exploration due to emotions and feelings. The judgements can be used later on for decision making, if required, but not during exploration.

It is natural to see that PMI would be used where there is a great deal of indecision. But it is not the main purpose of PMI. On the contrary, PMI should most especially be used when we have no doubt about the situation but have instantly made the decision. PMI forces us to explore where we would deem exploring un-necessary.

We can request someone to 'do a PMI' when that person as summarily dismissed our suggestion as valueless. We can request someone to 'do a PMI' when there seems to be a prejudged reaction to a situation. The PMI is useful because it is more oblique than direct disagreement or confrontation. In the PMI, you request the person to exhibit his or her great intelligence in a scan or exploration of the subject. This is totally different from asking a person to reverse an opinion. Normally the person is not afraid to do a PMI because he or she feels that this will only support the view that is already held. The results may be contrary! PMI turns fiercely emotional subject from prejudice towards consideration of the subject. Once perception is directed in a certain direction it cannot help but see, and once seen something cannot be unseen!

So instead of just reacting to the situation (based on perception) and then justifying the reaction, the thinker now goes thru a two-step process. The first step is to deliberately carry out the PMI operation. The second step is to observe and react to what has been turned up by the PMI Scan.

Doing a PMI is not really the same as listing the 'pros and cons' which tend to be more of a judegement exercise. The 'Interesting' direction allows for consideration of those ideas which would not fall under either pro or con.


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